Trust is the glue that binds people together. When people trust in democratic institutions they are free to interact and trade with strangers, restrain violent impulses and obey the law without fear of being cheated. But in South Africa, trust is sorely lacking.
Research suggests that one of the most reliable ways to build trust is through education. Reducing inequality also improves trust. Solving South Africa’s education and inequality crises is crucial, but will take many years.
The international humanitarian system is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy, not only because it lacks the capacity and funds to respond to the volume and complexity of current humanitarian needs, but also because the “authorizing environment” has changed: the system no longer represents the interests of today’s humanitarians or is able to instill trust in aid recipients.
Take places like Syria, where approximately 700 local organizations and diaspora groups have filled the void left by the absence of international relief organizations, which have been largely unable to operate in besieged areas since the conflict began. In Yemen, suspicion and mistrust by governments, armed groups, and communities themselves compel international aid organizations to work almost exclusively through local partners. According to surveys done by the accountability project Ground Truth, only one in six of those affected by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and one in 16 during the early response to the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa felt that their needs were being met by aid organizations.
BOGOTÁ – The Framework Agreement for the End of the Armed Conflict in Colombia that has just been announced by President Juan Manuel Santos is a historic landmark for his country and all of Latin America. It is also a tribute to diplomatic resourcefulness and negotiating skill.
The agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC, came after long years of failed attempts by Colombian governments of all political shades to reach an accommodation with the last, and among the most odious, guerrilla movement to have operated in Latin America. Never before has the FARC – a monumental apparatus of terror, mass murder, and drug trafficking – agreed to discuss disarmament, its fighters’ social and political reintegration, victims’ rights, an end to drug production, and participation in “truth and responsibility” commissions to examine the crimes committed during a half-century of conflict. But now it has.
The United Nations Special Commission and the Iraq Action Team
The UN Security Council first took the initiative to create its own verification disarmament unit under the provisions of Resolution 687, adopted after the Kuwait war in 1991. At that time, the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) became the first subsidiary organ of the Security Council, and was tasked with supervising the removal and destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—including its chemical, biological and missile capabilities—and relevant delivery systems, and with measures to prevent their reconstitution.
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (DGIAEA)—as opposed to the IAEA secretariat itself, with its institutional structures and decision-making bodies—had been given responsibility for the nuclear-related tasks. In order to fulfil his obligations, the Director General set up the Iraq Action Team, which was also independent of the IAEA’s formal structures, including the Department of Safeguards.
The Iraq Action Team had a two-fold mandate in Iraq: to remove and destroy nuclear-related material and equipment; and to manage an ongoing monitoring and verification programme. It reported the results of its technical analyses to the DGIAEA, who in turn reported the findings to the UN Security Council.
On the occasion of the 64th UN General Assembly the ISN asks whether the UN makes a difference in world politics.
In the ISN podcast this week, I ask Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein to evaluate the work of the UN. Due to the media’s focus on peace and security, people tend to neglect the UN”s activities in the fields of human rights and development, says Wenaweser.
The UN faces management problems. The five permanent members of the Security Council are unhealthily influential, and this is not only in the Council. Yet, according to Wenaweser, the organization has achieved much, for example in responding to the 2004 tsunami disaster or in promoting international criminal justice.
What else do we offer on the UN?
Security Watch features a story by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on the vast agenda facing UN leaders at the 64th General Assembly.
In our policy briefs section Eric Rosand of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation examines the strengths of the UN’s Terrorism Prevention Branch and identifies challenges lying ahead.
Rob Jenkins of the Crisis States Research Centre writes on the two-year old UN Peacekeeping Commission and its role in disseminating international norms, in our publications section.